Last Sunday, the Seattle Seahawks lost 17-14. It was an ugly game. In the rain and cold weather, Blair Walsh missed three field goals while a penalty pretty much stopped every offensive drive from starting. While that was the case for the vast majority of the offense, the lone bright spot on the offensive line was Duane Brown.
On October 31st, Seattle traded for the offensive tackle from the Houston Texans. Days later, it’s clear that this trade is already paying dividends.
In pass protection, Brown is a huge upgrade for this team. Versus Washington, he was the offense’s best pass blocker. In the first drive, the Seahawks had a third and six from their own 37-yard line. Preston Smith lined up in a “Wide 9” alignment and burst off the edge. Brown stayed patient in his kick steps and waited until Smith reached forward with his inside hand.
The pass rusher was attempting to use a one-arm bulrush to convert his speed-to-power, but Brown hammered his arm away and finished the edge rusher to the ground.
Using excellent hand technique was not a one-time thing. He did it again later in the first quarter. Smith, once again, tried to use the one-arm bullrush, but Brown expertly countered and made sure Smith didn’t impact the play.
In this game, he only allowed two pressures on 53 passing snaps. His first didn’t come until the start of the fourth quarter. Smith overpowered him and cleanly knocked him back two to three yards into the pocket. This forced Russell Wilson to scramble and eventually find a running lane for a six-yard gain.
Now, they didn’t outright pass rush for all of their snaps. A good portion of their defensive plays they were playing contain in order to keep Wilson in the pocket. With how frequently that defense was beaten by scrambling quarterbacks in the past, they desperately tried to keep Wilson from doing the same thing.
The one thing that really impressed me about Brown is the instant upgrade in communication that he brings to this line. Last season, stunting defensive lines like the Atlanta Falcons dominated this front. Brown’s understanding of where the looper is coming from and how this line picks them up has definitely improved them as a whole. In this play, Washington runs a tackle-end stunt but the line picks it up perfectly for the quarterback.
In my opinion, the weakest part of Brown’s game is clearly his run blocking. He plays with no sustain or drive in his blocks. Way too frequently he’ll allow smaller defensive players that are literally 60 pounds lighter to control him off the snap. It’s not that he’s weak or that he loses leverage, it’s simply that he doesn’t always put the effort on each play.
Now I really hate calling out somebody for this, but it’s something that he’s done throughout his career with the Texans and something I noticed in his game versus Washington. He’s the playside tackle and he needs to create leverage versus Ryan Anderson on the edge. However, since he doesn’t put any force or drive into his block, he allows Anderson to force the run back inside for the stop.
During this game, the Seahawks rarely ran in his direction. They preferred to run to the right side and used him as a backside run blocker. I can’t say if that’s on purpose or it’s simply a coincidence, but in a zone scheme, the backside is the frontside of the play. What I mean by that is that many of these runs will bend to the backside and this is actually what creates the large gains in this scheme. He has to execute these blocks but he often fails to.
The Seahawks run inside zone to the right and the line actually gets a good push. Rawls gets the first three yards untouched and cuts into the backside B-gap. Brown works his way to the second level, but allows the linebacker to throw off his block and make a play on the running back.
In general, the lack of aggression is clear. He is simply not the type of offensive lineman that wants to punish or pancake every single defender. He doesn’t seem to relish hitting smaller players or really setting the tone through physical intimidation. As a coach or general manager, you obviously would prefer your offensive lineman to have this trait, however, he is such an upgrade in the passing game that this well offsets the lack of running game he brings to this to this team.
In summary, after I went through all of his plays, I would give him an overall grade of a “B” in this game. This can be broken down further into a pass blocking grade of a “B+” and a run blocking grade of a “C”. The Seahawks ran more than two times the number of passing plays than they did running plays hence this is the reason why the final grade is not a direct average.